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Show Me How to Play the Piano

Sep 2, 2008
Clefs, notes, rests, scales, chords, rhythm... How long does it really take to learn how to play the piano? The answer depends on your definition of what your desired level of 'piano playing' should ultimately be. There are professionals, semi-professionals, amateurs and people with next to no training. The following are three common categories that a beginner pianist might aspire to achieve.

1. You want to simply play a couple of pieces to impress friends; this frame of mind will help you avoid unwanted comments such as:

"It doesn't surprise me that you don't play an instrument. You never could do anything!"

"I thought anyone could play SOMETHING on the piano. You've proven that I was wrong."

"I'm glad you don't play an instrument. Why do we need more noise pollution in the world?"

Yes, people can be mean. Of course, I'm giving you the worst case scenarios, but it doesn't hurt being prepared for the worst. Piano can easily be taught by a student copying a teacher, provided the pieces are not too long or complex. This type of rote teaching is a quick fix, designed to give a pupil confidence when asked by a friend or relative to play the piano. The downside is that a student will probably not accumulate a lot of repertoire using this method, unless that student has an astonishing memory or an incredibly accurate ear for music.

2. The second category of student involves an aspiration to play for one's own enrichment and enjoyment. At this stage real lessons should kick in, including theory and practical technique. If music is to be taken as a serious, yet enjoyable hobby, then learning the language is essential in avoiding future frustration. Some of these frustrations might include:

"I wish I learned how to read rhythm properly. Why did I waste my youth faking rhythm when I could have learned properly? Why, why, why ...?"

"I just realized something. I'm sixty and I can't read music. Ahhhh!"

3. Finally, category three involves an aspiration for professionalism. In order to achieve this level, serious lessons and lengthy practice sessions are a must. Music, like any other language, requires understanding and an unusual amount of repetition in order to reinforce mental understandings of music concepts and tactile memory. Consistency in this category has the added reward of increasing your chances at receiving comments such as:

"Wow, you're amazing!"

"I think my ears just smiled. Thank you for the blessing of your playing. Here's some cash... now please play some more, oh great one."

"I never knew real happiness until today. Thank you, thank you, thank you..."

Which category does the average person fit into? I would say the second one. Although the world is filled with professional musicians, most people want to be able to play a few songs and enjoy themselves. This enjoyment includes a bit of an understanding of the language of music, including clefs, notes, rests, scales, chords, rhythm and more.

So here's some final advice. If you really want to know how to play the piano, ask yourself what your ultimate goals are. This will better help you channel your valuable energy.
About the Author
Come and join the author, Daniel E. Friedman, at www.musicmasterstudios.com for assistance in music education and comprehension.
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